WR Moe and QB Franklin starting to jell for Mizzou
T.J. Moe led Missouri in receptions last year and remains the same go-to guy with a new quarterback, even if the numbers haven't been quite so prolific.
The shifty junior has 23 catches in the first four games for the Tigers, who return from a week off to play at No. 20 Kansas State on Saturday. He had a season-best seven catches for 119 yards in a loss to top-ranked Oklahoma.
''Well he's Mr. Mizzou,'' quarterback James Franklin said. ''He may be the second, third progression, maybe the first, but I can always look to him.''
The former high school quarterback from St. Charles, Mo. - who was recruited to play defense - caught 92 passes with six touchdowns last year. Two of the scores came in a 38-28 victory over Kansas State that wrapped up an unbeaten home schedule.
''I never played a game without getting the football,'' Moe said. ''Ever. For me, it's more exciting to score a touchdown than to prevent one.''
Moe said his production is on the rise because Franklin, a sophomore who replaced Blaine Gabbert, is getting more comfortable running the offense. The 100-yard receiving game against the Sooners was the first of the year for Missouri (2-2) and the fourth of Moe's career.
Coaches are quick to point out that all of Moe's contributions are not on the stat sheet.
''There isn't a guy that works harder in practice,'' coach Gary Pinkel said. ''He goes 100 mph every single play he's in there. Always.''
Moe's most valuable asset may be his versatility. Coaches contemplated using Moe at tailback after injuries to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore left only Henry Josey remaining from a three-back rotation. Moe has four carries for 16 yards.
''He makes plays for us in a multitude of ways,'' offensive coordinator Dave Yost said. ''I mean, he's returning punts, returning kicks. We hand the ball to him, we throw the ball to him, we motion him in the backfield.''
Missouri initially planned to try Moe at safety.
''We thought he'd be the quarterback of the defense,'' Yost said. ''But then we saw the ball in his hands. It was too magical.''
He's shown an uncanny ability to elude defenses, highlighted by a 68-yard scamper down the sideline for the clinching score against San Diego State last season to preserve a 3-0 start to the season.
The more he played, the more he emerged as a leader.
''I think anytime you start producing, then people respect what you say and respect what you do,'' Moe said. ''You become a leader by default. I think I did that a little bit last year, and I'm trying to take on the role a little bit more this year.''
Trying to make more big plays, too. Moe has only one score this year.
''There aren't a whole lot of feelings better than scoring a touchdown,'' he said.
Missouri has taken five straight in the series against Kansas State by an average margin of 18 points. They're facing a ranked opponent on the road for the third time in four games.